Mike Miles resig

As expected, Mike Miles announced he would step down as superintendent of Dallas public schools at Thursday’s school board meeting. Once he tenders his resignation, deputy superintendent Ann Smisko will take the reins as the search for a new superintendent begins.

Miles becomes the fourth superintendent to leave the district in 15 years. Dallas ISD has not had a superintendent see a freshman class graduate in 20 years. Miles was hired in 2012.

With a smile on his face, Miles began the press conference by recalling his hiring, saying when he arrived three years ago, the district was ready for a change. “I was brought with the recognition that we could not do the things we have always done,” he said. “The team and I accepted that challenge, knowing that we would have to think differently and act courageously. We knew we would have to make the tough decisions many were unprepared to make, and that many would oppose.

“Similar to the construction of a new building,” he said, there needed to be a good foundation – good teachers in every classroom, good principals, engaged students and parents.

Miles listed several accomplishments his team made over the past three years: Developing and implementing the most rigorous pay-for-performance system for teachers and principals in the nation; raising expectations with a high-performance culture; raising fund balance from $180 million to $350 million to place the district in its strongest financial situation ever; achieving the largest student achievement growth in any large district in Texas also challenged by poverty, per ERG analysis of success for urban school districts; increasing the graduation rate; establishing a national standard for number of minority students passing advanced placement exams; hiring more teachers; beginning rigorous choice school program; increasing investments in early childhood ed; implementing the ACE program; and creating an online newsroom.

“This team has been able to accomplish quite a bit, and I know no other district who has been able to accomplish that much in the same period of time,” he said.

And because of those achievements, Miles said, “I have decided that now is the time that I can step aside as superintendent,” knowing that the team that has been built can carry on his work.

It was a difficult decision, he said, and not made lightly. Citing his commitment to his family, he said, “It’s time to rejoin them in Colorado.”

(more…)

Photo: Dallas ISD

Photo: Dallas ISD

Multiple news outlets are reporting that Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles will resign at a 9:30 a.m. press conference.

Frankly, I don’t blame him. Even more frankly, I’m a little stunned he didn’t flip everyone the double bird months ago, and walk out backwards just to make sure we got the longest view of that double bird on his way out. Mike Miles is a nicer person than me.

Even if you disagreed with the man, this is a bad thing for Dallas public schools. Running an urban school isn’t going to get any easier for the next guy or gal. And who exactly is going to want a job where you only get three years to accomplish the herculean? Let me state this plainly – most likely any success Miles’ predecessor has will be because someone (Miles) set a foundation for success and that person left much of his policy in place. It will have to be that way, because we will not – as voters who hold the school board accountable – allow the next person any more time than we did Miles to accomplish anything in the way of real reform.

Yes, Miles could be stubborn. And he made some critical missteps personnel-wise that made it easier for folks already gunning for him to make a case. But we’ve also been monumentally stupid by believing news organizations who consistently get it wrong.  Let me reiterate, since they continue to get it wrong: The finance chief was highly-sought after and resigned after getting a very good offer from Garland ISD that DISD couldn’t match. We still have more in the reserve fund than the state requires. Student satisfaction (which is to me one of the most important metrics) is high.

So don’t dance about a boogeyman being vanquished. Instead, be very worried about the fact that the next guy will have exactly three years, too, to accomplish the daunting task of steering DISD.

Three years. Hardly seems worth the trip to Dallas to interview.

Stay tuned for coverage of Miles’ press conference at 9:30.

 

Photo: Bethany Erickson

Photo: Bethany Erickson

In a news cycle that only lends itself to the worst and the very best of public education in Dallas, we rarely hear of the experience of the non-Harvard bound, magnet-school-attending student. Today, I’d like to tell you all about one of those students.

I know this student, Chris, because I’ve fretted and worried and been ecstatic and proud for a whole lot of his Dallas public school  experience. He is the Little Brother to my husband and me. My husband and Chris met through Big Brothers Big Sisters not quite 10 years ago, and when my husband and I began dating, Chris became my family, too. One of Tiny’s first visitors was Uncle Chris, who read him a book in the hospital. Uncle Chris is one of Tiny’s favorite people, too.

Tonight, what I like to call an ongoing miracle will happen. When he was five, Chris was hit by a car, causing some brain trauma. He struggled in elementary school to read at grade level. But teachers at Gooch Elementary didn’t write him off but instead worked to get him the help he needed and the encouragement required to do hard work. When he went on to Walker Middle School, teachers and counselors there picked up the baton ably, too.

But it was W.T. White High that gave him his chance to shine. When I met Chris, college was this nebulous idea that left him – you could just tell – a little incredulous. But those teachers and counselors saw his interests, encouraged him to follow them, and he is emerging a young man who will not only be the first person in his family to graduate high school, but also a young man determined to be the first person in his family to graduate from college. (more…)

The Porch of Shame

See this? This is the porch of shame. I’ll start with the porch of shame because it’s my porch of shame, and it’s also the start of what will be a series of renovations and improvements on our cute little Midway Hollow home.

As we’ve talked about before, we have been weighing several schools, knowing we had a year or so before we really had to pull the trigger and put our house on the market and look for something else.

But then it happened. I had been driving around for a while and looking at every farking update Trulia and Zillow sent me, and couldn’t shake the feeling that we already had our house, and our school. Every house within our budget needed work. So does ours, only with the equity we have in it now, we can afford to make all kinds of changes.  And we really fell in love with Withers Elementary, but the only way we can really afford to live in its attendance zone is to stay put.

(more…)

floresrawlingsAs I mentioned last week, we will be live-blogging the election all day today. If you’re out and about, swing by your local polling place and punch a few buttons, won’t you, and then let us know how it went. If you’ve already voted, swing by anyway, and give those hardy souls volunteering for their candidates some encouragement. It looks to be a wet morning (Tiny played half a soccer game before the deluge commenced). We will post in chronological fashion with a time stamp, and from the bottom up, meaning that the most current update will be at the top, after this paragraph. Get out and vote, already, won’t you? 

12:00 a.m. Just a few final thoughts, before I wander off to bed. First, here are the final voting tallies for Dallas County:

  • Registered Voters: 1,145,988
  • Ballots Cast: 77,471
  • Voter Turnout: 6.76 %

Yep, in an election that decided the course of the school district, the mayor, and how a theoretical vote on the Trinity toll road would shake out, Dallas County cast less than 7 percent of its votes. Granted, this includes not only Dallas and Dallas ISD, but also suburbs like Mesquite, Garland, Rowlett, Lewisville and Sunnyvale, but still – all those places had mayoral elections and school board elections, too.

I say this every single election, but people still tell me they’re busy. You know who is super busy? People in other countries where voting might mean they die. But they do it anyway. We are all busy. But 6.76 percent of us (or, according to WFAA, 11 percent of  city of Dallas voters) went out and voted anyway, and found it was ridiculously easy. Did you know that early voting means you can vote anywhere in the city? For real.

When you sit there and kvetch about your property taxes, you know who votes on tax rates? County commissioners. School board members. City council members. Eventually, voters might get a say if their municipality reaches the roll back rate, but yeah, up until then they decide. And if you stayed home, well, you gave up your say.

You gave up your say.

By not voting, you made a conscious decision to step back and let other folks decide whether you are going to be shelling out money for a jacked suspension and busted tires, or whether the city will finally pay true attention to its infrastructure instead of applying piecemeal bandaids.

You gave up your say. And I can’t honestly imagine a less American thing to do.

11:40 p.m. With every blessed 936 precincts in Dallas county reporting, here is a rundown of Election Day:

Winners – Mike Rawlings, Mayor
Scott Griggs, Dallas City Council Seat 1 (unopposed)
Adam Medrano, Dallas City Council Seat 2 (unopposed)
Carolyn King Arnold, Dallas City Council Seat 4
Rick Callahan, Dallas City Council Seat 5
Monica Alonzo, Dallas City Council Seat 6
Tiffinni Young, Dallas City Council Seat 7
Mark Clayton, Dallas City Council Seat 9
Lee Kleinman, Dallas City Council Seat 11 (unopposed)
Sandy Greyson, Dallas City Council Seat 12 (unopposed)
Jennifer Staubach Gates, Dallas City Council Seat 13 (unopposed)
Philip Kingston, Dallas City Council Seat 14 (unopposed)
Edwin Flores, DISD School Board District 1
Dan Micciche, DISD School Board District 3
Bernadette Nutall, DISD School Board District 9

Runoffs: Joe Tave and Casey Thomas, Dallas City Council Seat 3
Dianne Gibson and Erik Wilson, Dallas City Council Seat 8
Paul Reyes and Adam McGough, Dallas City Council Seat 10

11:00 p.m. With 59 of 59 precincts reporting for DISD district 9, I will call the race for Bernadette Nutall, who edged out Offord by 292 votes. That makes the DISD elections final with Flores, Micciche and Nutall.

It’s looking like runoffs for the seat 3 race for Dallas city council, and Joe Tave and Casey Thomas will face off. Tave has said he opposes the toll road, while Thomas said he supports it.

I’ll have a final roundup as soon as all the precincts have reported.

10:20 p.m. With only 34 precincts of 40 reporting in Dallas seat 3, I am reluctant to call the race that has emerged between Casey Thomas II and Joe Tave, with about 422 votes separating the two. I’m also still fairly certain we’re working with a runoff for Seat 8, but with only 31 of 38 precincts reporting, I’ll hold off. I’m also going to keep an eye on the last three precincts in DISD District 9, where less than 300 votes separate Damarcus Offord and Bernadette Nutall.

With 58 of 59 precincts reporting in DISD District 1, I’m confident in calling the race for Edwin Flores. Flores maintained a fairly steady lead over Renard all night, and it looks like it’ll wind up with a 60/40 split for voters.

10:00 p.m. With 772 precincts reporting in Dallas county, not a ton to report. In District 10, Paul Reyes has pulled a smidge ahead of Adam McGough, but not by much – the two are still separated by less than 200 votes. In DISD District 9, 290 votes separate incumbent Bernadette Nutall and Damarcus Offord. In District 1, Kyle Renard needs 1,217 votes to pull up even with Edwin Flores. There are a few more races, but I still feel they are too close to call just yet.

9:45 p.m. While we wait for more returns, how about a look at some of the surrounding area? In Arlington, longtime Mayor Robert Cluck was ousted by Jeff Williams.  In Lewisville, Rudy Durham looks to be the leader in the mayor’s race. Mesquite’s mayoral race is still a little too close to call, and in Sunnyvale’s mayoral race Jim Phaup is leading so far.

9:30 p.m. Roughly half the precincts have reported now, and about 50 votes separate Adam McGough and Paul Reyes. This will be a runoff for sure. Voter turnout stats are slowly improving as the night progresses, too.

  • Registered voters: 1,145,988
  • Ballots Cast: 58,882
  • Voter Turnout: 5.14 %

9:10 p.m. We now have 281 precincts reporting, and I can call a few more races. As predicted, I’ll call the Dallas City Council seat 9 for Mark Clayton. I will also call seat 4 for Carolyn King Arnold, seat 5 for Rick Callahan, seat 6 for Monica Alonzo, and seat 7 for Tiffinni Young. I am also looking at a possible call for DISD District 1 soon, as Edwin Flores’ lead is now more than 1,000 votes over Kyle Renard.

I’m also predicting a possible three-way runoff for seat 8 between Dianne Gibson, Gail Terrell and Erik Wilson. With less than 100 votes between Paul Reyes and Adam McGough, I foresee a runoff for seat 10 as well.

8:45 p.m. Eighty-four precincts reporting in Dallas County, and not much has changed. Still. I’m calling the Rawlings/Ronquillo race for Rawlings – making up that kind of early voting deficit on Election Day – especially a rainy local election – is nigh to impossible. I think we will see at least a one runoff, where even fewer people will vote. I’m also calling the DISD District 3 seat for incumbent Dan Micciche. I also feel like I’ll be calling Mark Clayton the victor for seat 9 very soon as well.

8:20 p.m. Fifty-five precincts of 936 so far, and the needles haven’t moved much, if at all. City Council Seat 4 has Carolyn Arnold inching up to 50 percent, getting 891 of 1,794 votes counted so far. Rick Callahan has lost a little ground in council seat 5, now at 69 percent of the vote. In seat 8, only 100 votes separate current leader Dianne Gibson and Gail Terrell. Mark Clayton (Seat 9) will (I predict) continue to trounce nearest competitor Darren Boruff. I also predict a runoff for seat 10, between Paul Reyes and Adam McGough, separated by only 73 votes so far. In DISD, District 10 and 3 are still slowly reporting, but with three precincts reporting in District 1, Edwin Flores has widened his lead over Kyle Renard with 539 more votes, or 58 percent of the vote.

7:50 p.m. Just noticed these stats for this election. Pitiful, y’all.

  • Registered Voters: 1,145,988
  • Ballots Cast: 40,132
  • Voter Turnout: 3.50 %

7:43 p.m. While we wait for the rest of the returns to come in from today’s voting, any surprises? Less than 200 votes separate Bernadette Nutall and Damarcus Offord in DISD District 9. Some see this school board election as a referendum on Mike Miles (just like the city council races are being seen as a quasi-vote on the Trinity Toll Road). Even if Nutall maintains her lead, if it’s this small, does she have to consider her position on Miles?

Chime in while we wait!

7:10 p.m. And we’re off. Early voting returns are rolling in.  In the case of districts with more than three candidates, we will post the top two candidates.

Dallas Mayor                          Mike Rawlings   76 percent, 14,486 votes

Marcos Ronquillo, 24 percent, 4,609 votes

City Council Seat 3             Casey Thomas II, 40 percent, 685 votes
Joe Tave, 27 percent, 463 votes
City Council Seat 4             Carolyn King Arnold, 49 percent, 750 votes
Carl Hays, 13 percent, 201 votes
Sandra Crenshaw, 13 percent, 207 votes

City Council Seat 5             Rick Callahan, 71 percent, 550 votes
Sherry Cordova, 24 percent, 183 votes

City Council Seat 6             Monica Alonzo, 83  percent, 476 votes
Daniel “DC” Caldwell, 11 percent, 62 votes

City Council Seat 7            Tiffinni A. Young, 45 percent, 804 votes
Baranda J. Fermin, 14 percent, 240 votes

City Council Seat 8            Dianne Gibson, 33 percent, 399 votes
Gail Terrell, 24 percent, 296 votes

City Council Seat 9           Mark Clayton, 59 percent, 1,565 votes
Darren Boruff, 27 percent, 667 votes

City Council Seat 10          Paul Reyes, 40 percent, 1,061 votes
Adam McGough, 38 percent, 988 votes

DISD Trustee District 1          Edwin Flores, 57 percent, 1,761 votes
Kyle Renard, 43 percent, 1,302 votes

DISD Trustee District 3         Dan Micciche, 73 percent, 1,563 votes
David Lewis, 27 percent, 569 votes

DISD Trustee District 9         Bernadette Nutall, 54 percent, 1,180 votes
Damarcus Offord, 46 percent, 1,005 votes

 

7 p.m. Polls have closed. In a few minutes, returns will start coming in, starting with early voting.

6:30 p.m. You have 30 minutes to vote.

Want to see what some of the candidates were up to today? Catch up on Twitter or Facebook:

Mark ClaytonPhilip Kingston, Damarcus OffordJames WhiteMarcos RonquilloEdwin FloresKyle RenardDan Micciche, Joe Tave, and Monica Alonzo.

 5:45 p.m. I’m back home. I’ve been all over the city today, talking to supporters and getting an idea of turnout for Election Day. Guys, you have about an hour to get to your polling place. Scroll down, and we’ve provided links to find out where you should vote. I’ve seen some of you wait in a 10 plus deep line at Target for Lilly Pulitzer, so no whining about how voting is inconvenient. This takes less time, and in most locations you can have curbside parking!

I will admit – I got busy talking at one polling location and actually forgot to check voting totals. But I have a really good reason – I got to have a nice, long, impromptu town hall with some Damarcus Offord and Bernadette Nutall supporters over at Park South YMCA. These folks – even though they disagree about many things – even managed to find common ground when it came to the subject of testing. It was raining during the conversation, but immediately after we all agreed high-stakes testing was a mistake, the heavens parted and it quit raining for exactly 3 minutes. I may have even heard angels sing.

My last stop of the day was Cochran Elementary, where 22 people had voted by 1:30 p.m.

While I was out, I took this picture at Lochwood Library. East Dallas/Lakewood has a lot to choose from.

LochwoodLibrary

 

And this is just some of the hearty band of supporters that turned out for their candidates at Park South YMCA.

ParkSouthYMCAelection

 

 

4:40 p.m. Candy here showing you how quiet Dealey was this afternoon at 1:00 p.m. when I voted. At least I found a place to park!

Polling place 2

Polling place 1

 

3:00 p.m. Dodging a few rain drops, but nothing frightening. If you’re looking for your school board candidates, I’m hearing that some have taken a break from campaigning to attend the funeral of former Dallas County school board member Jan Woody tomorrow. Woody, coincidentally, held the DCS board seat currently held by DISD district 1 candidate Kyle Renard.

Some more voting totals:

Lochwood Library: 113 at 1:30

Gill Elementary: 67 at 1:30

Northridge Presbyterian: 272 at 1:35, per superstar realtor Heather Guild.

DeGoyler Elementary: 84 at 2, thanks to Louisa Meyer.

Withers Elementary: 135 at 3:30

 

1:40 p.m. Some voting totals so far today, as I head out to check out the rest of the district:

Nathan Adams: 52 as of 11:30

Addison Fire Station: 120 as of noon

Foster Elementary: 18 as of 12:28

Kramer Elementary: 73 as of 1:30

Northaven UMC: 34 as of 1:30

11:57 a.m. USGS says that rattler from earlier was a 2.7 in Farmers Branch. Is it bad that I’m getting good at prognosticating the severity of an earthquake?

11:25 a.m. Are you afraid of some rain? I sure hope not. After early voting, 35,000 registered voters in Dallas County had voted. Many think that since this isn’t a presidential election, their vote isn’t important. To that, I say bullhockey, and if you’re reading this and thinking that, well, you’re wrong. Local elections are probably the most important voting you will ever do, because it impacts things you see immediately. Property taxes. School reform. Infrastructure (better existing roads vs. new ones). You may think a presidential election is sexier, but to me, there is nothing sexier than being able to flush my toilet and put my money towards beautifying my home instead of new tires and suspension.  I’m about to head out and check voting numbers at a few polling places (because let’s face it, the heavier lifting is this evening), and I may repeat this several times, in successively crankier fashion. Go vote.

11:10 a.m. Oh hey, earthquake.

11:00 a.m. If you still need a quick primer or don’t know where to go vote, you can look here, here, herehere,  here, and here. Last night, James White, who is running for city council in District 10, told me he would be making the rounds at polling places bright and early, and many other candidates will either be at polling places or walking the block in attempts to rouse last-minute votes. Lochwood resident Michael Mason said that when he went to vote this morning around 9, he was the 13th voter at Martha T. Reilly Elementary.

DISD Admin Building 3700 Ross AveA lot of numbers, a lot of jargon, and a lot of arguing about data occurred last night as Dallas ISD trustees discussed Superintendent Mike Miles’ future with Dallas public schools. And a lot of people argue passionately on both sides of the issue about which data points we should listen to.

It’s a lot as a parent to wrap your head around. Who is right? How do I put into context what they are saying? Is it really that bad, or really that good?  Even after a lengthy career that included covering education for several different papers and several differently-sized school districts, meetings like last night can make my head spin.

Dr. Mike Moses

Dr. Mike Moses

So when that happens, I look for an expert. And this time, I was lucky enough to get a great one – a former DISD superintendent, state education commissioner and current visiting professor at UNT – Mike Moses.

“The superintendent’s positions – especially superintendent positions at an urban district – are very explosive jobs,” Moses said. “They are fraught with all kinds of challenges, and in addition to the education aspect, you have a lot of politics – labor politics, business politics, actual politics and even media politics – to deal with. And all of that is pretty combustible.

“And then to add to that you have nine different people with nine different districts to answer to – you’re juggling a lot of balls. But the people that apply for and want these superintendent positions, they know that going in,” he added. “And when you go in, you hope to be able to manage all of it successfully.”

And Dallas ISD is not alone in its struggles to balance the needs of all the students in its district. “Governments of urban districts have been the subject of a lot of discussion over the last 10 years,” Moses said. (more…)

Photo: Dallas ISD

Photo: Dallas ISD

I’ll have more later after I’ve had time to go through my notes, but brief rundown of tonight’s called meeting of the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees, with the lone item on the agenda being a discussion of superintendent Mike Miles’ employment status was contentious, and that may even be an understatement.

The meeting lasted for more than five hours, and much of that was in executive session. It was clear as the board came back into open session that the three board members who demanded – and went to court – for the meeting to take place were not happy with the outcome. After two rounds of expressing displeasure and a statement from Mike Miles (again, more after I’m able to review notes), the board voted – 2-7 in favor of issuing a letter of concern to Mike Miles. A letter of concern, for the record, has less weight than a letter of reprimand, so needless to say it was several steps below what many feared or hoped would happen tonight. The two no votes were from Joyce Foreman and Elizabeth Jones.

But in a surprise move, Foreman then made a motion that was apparently not discussed in the executive session – a motion to require Miles resign in December. Jones amended it to ask for an independent review of the state of the district. There was much back and forth, but the swing votes – Eric Cowan and Dan Micciche – both said they wanted a responsible succession plan, and this was not it. Ultimately, the measure failed, 3-6, with Foreman, Bernadette Nutall and Jones voting for it.

 

 

Photo: Dallas ISD

Photo: Dallas ISD

Bill Rojas. Mike Moses. Michael Hinojosa. Mike Miles.

That’s a list of the four people who have been Dallas ISD superintendent in the past 15 years. And if some on the current board of trustees have their way tomorrow at 4 p.m., Dallas public schools will be looking at a fifth superintendent in 15 years. In fact, someone pointed out to me earlier (and then I went back and did the math) that in 20 years, only one DISD superintendent has been here long enough to see a freshman class graduate.

Some on the school board wish to fire Mike Miles. They’ve made no bones about it for quite some time. And tomorrow, they intend to do so.

I have never made a secret of my irritation at some of Miles’ missteps in the beginning, like the hiring of the overpaid communications director, for one. But the man has a vision and is a reformer. And reform we do need. In a district with a poverty rate of 90 percent, and a student homeless population of over 4,000, we need reform. When we have students who can’t read at grade level or above, we need reform. When schools fail to perform up to expectations, we need reform.

But we don’t like it. Reform means change, and change is painful and nobody likes pain. But we don’t like the school-to-prison pipeline we’ve got, either. We don’t like that it’s a tooth-and-nail fight to get the middle class in the city to see their neighborhood schools for the gems they are, but also to see that even gems need polishing.

So we have to decide, right now, today, if we want stability and the chance at real reform, or if we really are content to let yet another superintendent walk the plank. We need to decide if our children need to be in a place where all the programs just starting to get a foothold will be scrapped because of yet another new administration. We have to decide today, and then we have to tell our school board our desires (even if you disagree with me and think he should be fired). Send them Facebook messages. Email them. Call them.

Because here’s the deal: I do not know if Mike Miles’ reforms will work. And I do know that there have been some bumps – some significant – in his administration (like the HR management issue). But I do know that if he isn’t given the latitude to do his job, these reforms will indeed fail. And if we fire one more superintendent, we will have had potentially 5 in 15 years (Rojas, Moses, Hinojosa, Miles, and whoever they can rope into accepting the helm after him). That’s not stability. An average of three-four years per super is not enough time to implement real changes.

Miles shows signs of promise so far. The district is in the best financial health it has been in years. For every five teachers I meet, four tell me they are excited and energized by the potential of earning more money, getting better coaching and better direction. Energized, enthusiastic teachers mean energized, enthusiastic learners, which in turn mean better schools. Principals go through more rigorous coaching and evaluations before they even become principals. There is a renewed focus on concrete early childhood education, where we get the most bang for our buck and where the interventions happen that mean kids are more likely to read at grade level by third grade – which means that test scores will eventually go up. All of this happened on Miles’ watch.

And who, really, would want this job if our board fires yet another superintendent? No real reformer is going to want a job that has a very real danger of ending before it really had a chance to begin. We have the appearance of a nasty habit of firing or running off superintendents just as they’ve begun to roll their sleeves up and work. Will this attract top talent to the district? Does our school board exacerbate the challenges of an urban district so much that our challenging district becomes an impossible one?

I don’t know the answers to those questions, by the way. But I do know that what DISD needs is time, and a school board that will recognize it and allow it.

Update: The majority of the Dallas City Council and Mayor Mike Rawlings have asked the board to not fire Miles.